By Harihar Swarup
Results in assembly election in Maharashtra are on expected lines: no party got majority and the BJP emerged as the single largest party, having secured only 121 seats in 288-member house, falling short of 22 seats to get majority. But in Haryana it was a real surprise: few expected clear majority for the BJP when in the last election the saffron party could get just four seats. The Congress, which ruled Haryana for 10 years under leadership by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, got worst-ever drubbing, getting only 15 seats in 90-member assembly. It has been seen wherever the Congress gets less than 20 percent of votes it never revives. One wonders if that will be so in Haryana where the Congress, though badly defeated, has still deep roots.
Haryana results also demonstrate that Modi wave is still strong in north but it is not so in Maharashtra. Another notable aspect was that Narendra Modi emerged bigger factor than the state leadership in determining the poll outcome. In both Haryana and Maharashtra, the BJP did not project its state leadership, the spotlight remained only on Modi. And, throughout his campaign, while cleverly playing upon local symbols and issues, Modi sought to reach out to the state by inviting it to be part of his national project at the centre.
The go-it-alone strategy worked for the BJP in more ways than one. The Congress, which headed the governments both in Haryana and Maharashtra, is not even the second party in either of the two states. Apparently, the BJP was able to splinter the opposition votes, marginalizing the Congress further in the process. The strategy to fight without major allies seems to have paid off very well, though in Maharashtra, where the BJP fell short of a majority, the party might revive its ties with the Shiv Sena. With the NCP offering unconditional support, the BJP knows the limits of Sena’s bargaining position.
Indeed, the Sena must be regretting it wasn’t more accommodative towards the BJP during the seat sharing negotiations. In its desperation to see Uddhav as chief minister, Sena was unable to read the minds of the BJP leaders or voters. Every election sees political churning and the BJP has every reason to be happy about having pushed the Congress to third position in the two states.
The question before the BJP now is whom to name the chief minister in Haryana – a Jat or a non-Jat from over half-a dozen contenders. The front runners for CM’s post from among the jats are former BJP spokesman Capt. Abhimanyu and Kisan Morcha chief Om Prakash Dhankar. The non-Jats whose names are in circulation are former state party in-charge Manohar Lal Khattar and state BJP President Ram Bilas Sharma. Being close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Khattar stands better chance.
In Maharashtra the situation has turned tricky. The question doing rounds in political circles is– whom the BJP will pick up as its post poll ally to ensure a majority in the assembly? Will it again rely on the Shiv Sena, which bagged 59 seats, in spite of invectives hurled by Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Uddhav has gone on to extent of calling PM Afzal Khan and asserting “if a chaiwala could become the Prime Minister why can’t I”? In a surprise move Sharad Paward-led NCP has offered outside support to the BJP. This means if the Sena tries to blackmail the BJP or demand Chief Minister’s post as the cost for support, the NCP will come in support of the BJP and, if need be, join the coalition.
In spite of tall talks by Sena leaders, Uddhav, according to latest reports, has shown signs of relenting and may join the BJP-led government. In that event Uddhav should forget his dream of becoming the chief minister. It will be left to the BJP whether to give deputy chief minister’s post to the Sena or not? The BJP has, however, made it clear that a reunion with the Shiv Sena will be on its own terms. “We did not break the alliance with Sena. We have won more seats in the state”, said BJP President Amit Shah. At the moment of writing this column BJP’s state president Devendra Fadnavis is the front-runner for the chief minister’s post.
Congress and NCP leaders have committed a big mistake by breaking 25-year-old alliance. Had they not broken the tie up, they would have been in a much better position, perhaps may have emerged as a formidable combine to rule Maharashtra again. Apparently, in a blatant opportunist move the NCP has decided to support the BJP government from outside, closing all options of reviving congress-NCP alliance. The congress will be left alone in the opposition in Maharashtra assembly; fortunately the outgoing chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has won. (IPA Service)